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Luis Paret, View of El Arenal de Bilbao

Key facts
Full title View of El Arenal de Bilbao
Artist Luis Paret
Artist dates 1746 - 1799
Date made 1784
Medium and support Oil on mahogany
Dimensions 60.3 × 83.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1983
Inventory number NG6489
Location Room 40
Collection Main Collection
View of El Arenal de Bilbao
Luis Paret

The small quayside of El Arenal is now in the centre of Bilbao, a city in the Basque region of northern Spain, but it was once used as a promenade and for unloading cargo from ships. The view is today dominated by buildings but Paret’s picturesque scene takes in the elegant walkway along the river Nervión and the panorama of mountains beyond. Wealthy citizens and dock workers alike go about their daily activities. To the right, fashionably dressed ladies enjoy a leisurely walk, while behind them a number of labourers shift goods.

Paret painted this work while in exile, following his banishment from Madrid in 1775. It belongs to a series of views depicting Spain’s northern ports, which were commissioned from Paret by the Prince of Asturias – son of King Charles III and the future Charles IV – in 1786. Six other paintings from the series survive; this one, dated 1784, is the same size as the View of Bermeo, painted on copper the previous year (Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao).

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